The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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40 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2017 and with all our guys, if they're hav- ing a bad offensive game, it doesn't mean you have to have a bad defen- sive game. "Mo is not alone, but at the start of the second half, [Texas] took him to the basket and scored right over him. You've got to be able to play defense better than that." The numbers for the veterans, meanwhile, are also somewhat mis- leading in that the statistics have been padded against the bad teams on the schedule. Irvin has been somewhat solid in the big six games — 13.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, a 3.8 to 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, 38.9 two-point field goal percentage and 41.9 percent from three — though his two-point percentage is a bit low. Walton and Abdur-Rahkman, though, have struggled. Walton aver- aged 10.0 points and 3.7 rebounds, had a 3.2 to 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio with only a 23.5 two-point percentage and a 36.1 three-point percentage — and that included one huge game of 23 points in the win over SMU. Abdur-Rahkman was at 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, a 1.2 to 1.7 assist-to-turn- over ratio and a 53.8 two-point per- centage — but was shooting only 23.8 from three-point range. Part of the problem still remains a lack of depth, Beilein said after U-M's loss to UCLA. Abdur-Rahkman isn't in much danger of losing minutes be- cause the Wolverines are still limited at the two-guard position. Freshmen Xavier Simpson and Ibi Watson have played sparingly, and both are still works in progress. "We want our guys to be able to play with the idea that somebody might catch them in a minute — that you've got to play for your job every day," Beilein said. "That hasn't necessarily been a motivator for him because he looks behind him and there's nobody there." It's not lack of effort, the coach said. He also realizes that this team can't reach its potential without very good play from the seniors. "They're playing a lot of minutes. They can play better … both of them," Beilein said. "They're in this area where maybe they're taking an extra dribble when they should have given it up, or maybe pulling up for a jump shot when they could have taken two dribbles to get to the rim. "They'll see those sweet spots. That's part of coaching. We've got to continue to educate them that this is your game … this is how you can use it. But we settle sometimes or the ball sticks a little bit. They recognize it. "They're all about a really high care level for our team. They want to win so badly, and they love their teammates. It's a good problem to have … they're not selfish." MAKING PROGRESS All three veterans played well against UCLA on the biggest stage, and Walton and Abdur-Rahkman started taking the ball to the rim with confidence again, even though a few of Walton's got erased by UCLA's length. Those were positive signs. Still, U-M had room to improve offensively. The Wolverines ranked 27th in offensive efficiency at 1.121 points per game as of Dec. 13, but they weren't running and scoring in transi- tion like they needed to, Beilein noted. Michigan was tied for 172nd in per- centage of its shots in transition at 21 percent through 11 games per Hoop- "We're playing too much half-court basketball," Beilein said. "We have to get up and down the court, whoever is pushing it … right now Derrick has been the only push guy, and he's got to even do more there. We certainly have multiple push men, but we're not seeming to do that right now. "… The guys running routes are running at what's a comfortable speed. We have to get tired running our fast break sometimes. I tell them hundreds of times, 'Not one of you would have come here if I would have told you we're not going to run, that we're go- ing to jog up and down the court.' You've got to be willing to do that." They've got to continue to make shots, too. The looks won't come as easy as they did against Central Ar- kansas, but all of them shot with con- fidence in knocking down open looks during that 97-53 blowout. U-M was Six players averaged 8.0 points or better in the first 11 games — led by senior Zak Irvin (14.2), who has been the backcourt's most consistent player. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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